2020 French Open: What to Watch on Sunday

2020 French Open: What to Watch on Sunday

September 27, 2020

How to watch: From 3 a.m. Eastern to noon on Tennis Channel, and from noon to 3 p.m. on NBC; Streaming on the NBCSN app.

The French Open begins on Sunday, with the first-round matches spread across three days instead of two in a departure from tradition. While some things have changed, the high level of play and the familiar faces are returning. Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka will be the marquee matchup around midday for U.S. audiences, but look out for a few more stellar matches to get this edition of Roland Garros off to a good start.

Here are some matches to keep an eye on.

Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are at best a guess and are certain to fluctuate based on the times at which earlier play is completed. All times are Eastern.

Court Philippe-Chatrier | Noon

Andy Murray vs. Stan Wawrinka

Murray and Wawrinka last met at a Grand Slam in the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2017. Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open champion, persevered in five sets. Now, with both major winners still recovering from lengthy injury spells, they meet in the first round.

Wawrinka skipped the United States Open to play preparatory tournaments on red clay, winning a challenger-level event in Prague in August before withdrawing from the subsequent Prague Open in the quarterfinals. After a first-round loss to an Italian youngster, Lorenzo Musetti, at the Italian Open, Wawrinka will be looking for a quick turnaround.

Murray, a three-time major champion, has always been known for his ability to grind away at opponents. At the U.S. Open this year, his first Grand Slam singles event following his return to the tour after hip surgery, he was true to form, winning a tough five-set match against Yoshihito Nishioka. Although it was a vintage performance from Murray, he lost in the second round to Felix Auger-Aliassime in three sets, clearly struggling with the effects of his previous slog.

Although Murray has beaten Wawrinka in most of their encounters, Wawrinka holds a 3-1 lead on clay. Wawrinka’s advantage will only be enhanced by his recent play on clay, while Murray has focused on hardcourts for the past few months. Expect a battle of high-quality tennis fueled by a rivalry built on bigger stages.

Court Philippe-Chatrier | 5 a.m.

Jannik Sinner vs. David Goffin

David Goffin, ranked No. 12, lost in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open to a surging Denis Shapovalov in four sets. Goffin has consistently stayed in the top 25 since 2014, but he has not won a title since 2017. A runner-up at the ATP Tour Finals in 2017, Goffin seems to keep scratching the surface of being a top-tier player. He has fallen short so far, and the next generation may usurp him.

Among that generation is Jannik Sinner, who is 19. The exciting Italian prospect is ranked 74th but has an impressive record. At the Italian Open, he dispatched Benoît Paire in two quick sets before overtaking the world No. 6, Stefanos Tsitsipas, in three sets. He lost in the third round to Grigor Dmitrov in another tough three-set match and appears entirely unfazed by the records of the titans whom he has started to play regularly.

Sinner won the only previous meeting between the two, on hardcourts in Rotterdam earlier this year. But in the five-set format of the Grand Slam tournaments, Sinner has not proved able to last. For Goffin, the physical and mental test of a marathon may be to his advantage.

Court Suzanne-Lenglen | 10 a.m.

Johanna Konta vs. Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff, the young American star, had her worst Grand Slam performance at this year’s U.S. Open, losing in the first round to Anastasija Sevastova. To think that Gauff, at 16, could be genuinely disappointed with a first-round loss is a testament to her skill.

Johanna Konta does not take Gauff lightly. “It doesn’t matter if she’s 14 or 40,” Konta said. “I think she’s there for a reason. It’s going out on court respecting the player that I’m about to play. I’m going to be playing against the tennis she brings, not her social media following, not her persona.”

For Konta, ranked No. 13, the French Open has been a strange tournament. Having competed at Roland Garros five times, she lost in the first round on her first four attempts and then surged to the semifinals in 2019 before losing to Marketa Vondrousova in two very tight sets.

Konta’s style focuses heavily on offense, which generally suits her on the faster surfaces. Gauff, playing in her first French Open, will have a slight advantage with her counterstriking and her consistency, which allows her to draw out longer points and force errors. Even for casual fans, this will be a matchup well worth watching.

Court Philippe-Chatrier | 10 a.m.

Simona Halep vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo

Simona Halep, the top seed and the 2018 Roland Garros champion, comes into this year’s French Open as a clear favorite. She skipped the U.S. hardcourt swing this summer, citing concerns over handling of health protocols, and stuck to her favored surface. She has won two clay court tournaments in succession, the Prague Open and the Italian Open, demonstrating along the way that she could dispatch rivals like Garbiñe Muguruza and Karolina Pliskova with relative ease.

Halep’s short, angled shots are supremely effective on clay and can pull even the most mobile opponents into awkward positions on the court. That will create many problems for Sara Sorribes Tormo, whose speed is not up to par with that of the top players.

Sorribes Tormo, ranked No. 70, has never made it past the second round of a Grand Slam tournament. Although she is most comfortable on the red clay of southern Europe, her best skill, volleying, is better suited for doubles than for long, drawn-out points. Against Halep, her chances seem slim, but as any coach will point out, if you can play well without becoming intimidated by your opponent’s reputation, you can keep your head held high and learn from a loss.

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